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D'var Torah (August 15, 2020) for Parashat Re'eh

This week’s portion is “Re’eh”(Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17). Moses, continuing to address the Israelites, tells them that “See, today I set before you blessing and curse”. This will depend on whether the Israelites follow the commandments or not. Ultimately, he will place some of the tribes on Mount Gerizim to pronounce the blessings and the others on Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses. This as they prepare to cross the Jordan River.

Chapter 12 opens up with more laws and rules. Here he is admonishing the Israelites to destroy all sites, altars, posts, etc., that are signs of pagan worship of the Canaanite peoples in the land. He is also warning them not to emulate those practices in worshipping HaShem.

He tells them G-d will set a place, as yet unnamed and unidentified where they will perform sacrifices. It will be only at this place and no other. There they will offer up their first born of their flocks and herds. Moses alludes to the rejoicing they will do during their festivals all members of their families.

Moses tells them that G-d says that they can, however, eat meat anywhere in the land as a regular meal. Moses says they can slaughter their animals to prepare for those meals. It was also commanded that the blood was to be drained completely. It was from that commandment that the method of slaughter of sh’chittah (slitting the throat) was decided and that it was the most humane way of preparing the animal for food.

This was different than using animals for sacrifices, which would still need to done at that special site. The Israelites could either bring the animals with them or sell it at their home and then buy another animal when they arrived.

Again Moses warns the Israelites not to follow the pagan ways of the Canaanite tribes they are about to dispossess.

Chapter 13 opens with the warning to observe the commandments as they are and neither to add nor subtract in any way to them.

He then talks about false prophets. They will try and entice them to follow their ways, different from Torah. These people are a test from G-d if they really love Him. They are to put to death any false prophet or dream-diviner.

This is true even for any relatives. They are not to favor them because they are related but carry out capital punishment by stoning. This is also true if they hear of any such false prophets in other towns. They are to go out and investigate thoroughly. If the whole town is following, then the whole town’s inhabitants are put to the sword. Do not hesitate, but carry out the judgement.

Chapter 14 states that they are children of the Lord their G-d. They are not to make marks in their skin or shave their heads as mourning rituals or to honor the dead.

Moses then reviews the laws of Kashrut. He lists the animals which they can eat: animals with true hoofs which are cleft in two and chew their cud. They may eat fish that have fins and scales. They may eat any pure bird, but not birds of prey. They may not eat any kosher animal that has died on its own. Finally, we have the commandment not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

Next is the practice of setting aside a tenth or “tithe”, each year of all their yield. This is brought, again, to the place that G-d will designate. They will also share their portions with the Levites, who have no portion of their own. The Levites serve G-d on their behalf and are dependent on their bounty. They are also to be generous with the widow, stranger and fatherless.

Chapter 15 talks about the remission of debts. They should lend money to their fellow who is having a tough time and not demand interest. This is an act of tzedakah or charity. They can, however, charge interest to foreigners as a business deal.

They should not think that the seventh or Sabbatical year is coming soon and will lose the opportunity to get repaid. As they do for their fellow, G-d will do for them. G-d will reward their generosity. They are also to help their kinsman. If someone is struggling financially and needs to sell themselves into debenture, at the end of their term they are to be releases with enough supplies to start the lives over.

They are also to consecrate their first born of their herd and flocks and eat it with their family wherever they want.

Chapter 16 concludes the parashat by talking about the three pilgrimage festivals. It starts out discussing observing the month of Aviv, now known as Nissan, for a Passover sacrifice. They are to also eat the sacrifice along with the unleavened bread, the matzah for eight days. They are to destroy or burn anything leavened the afternoon before. This is also to be eaten at a place to be designated.

They are then to count seven weeks to when they will harvest the first grain. This is the Feast of weeks (Shavuot) and involves a freewill offering. When the Fall harvest comes, this is the Feat of Booths or Succot. It is for seven days and everyone is to come with an offering.

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